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Halloween Night

It’s Halloween, and I’ve been doing all sorts of Halloween things today in preparation for tonight. We’re expecting a big storm, which is thrilling but puts a damper on trick-or-treating. But I’ve got other plans — movies, treats, and games for the kids; divination for the grown ups; purification and warding for the house.

I’ve been cleaning up my house all week, so the baseline — a clean, orderly space — has already been taken care of. I started off the day with my annual purification and warding ritual: smoking the house and shaking my forked wand strung with bells in every corner of every room (and over windows and closets). I set what was left of the incense stick on the hearth, along with a candle and cup of milk. Then I mixed a thin paste of ground charcoal, black salt, and water in a bowl. The water partly came from our well and partly from the water communion ritual at my UU church, which holds the goodwill of the congregation that I have found so nourishing. Mixing the two creates a potent blend of the power of human community and the mysteries of the earth on which I live.

I took the paste outside on a vintage tin tray, along with a paint brush and a black-handled broom. I swept the front porch, then repainted our protective bindrune with the black paste under the doormat. I did the same at the other exterior doors of the house, moving in a sunwise rotation. After that, I took chunks of glossy black slag that I’d collected from my in-laws’ property in Tennessee and dropped one at each corner of our fence, plus two at each gate (one on each side), singing a thread to connect them all and form a protective boundary. At the main gate, I bound it up.

Now I’m baking all souls’ bread. Usually, I make little cakes, but bread seemed better today. I used this recipe as a base, adding a ½ teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. We’ll eat it with apples and cheese, or maybe a pumpkin soup. Since it’s a cool, rainy day, I’ve set it on our electric stove on the hearth to help it rise, which also allows it to serve as an offering to the house spirit. I can smell the warming spices emanating from the bowl as I write. I think there’s nothing better than homemade bread, especially on a cool, dreary day.

It’s important to make the holidays we celebrate thoroughly immanent. They should breathe magic throughout every corner of our lives, refreshing and reminding us how inextricable the spiritual aspect of existence is from the material and everyday. Make good seasonal food, cleanse and protect your home, feed your spirits, strengthen those deep connections between yourself and those you love — the living, the dead, and others besides. Let yourself go a little wild.

What are your plans for this Halloween (or Samhain, if you prefer)?

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